Americas

Criminal lawyers begin to see pot disputes roll in

Less than two weeks after cannabis became legal, lawyers say they are seeing clients dealing with pot-related disputes.

A Vancouver criminal lawyer is sounding the alarm over the new laws after a 24-hour driving prohibition and $230 fine was issued to a 38-year-old Victoria man for allegedly driving with pot in his car.

“The officer had determined there was residue on the dash of his vehicle,” said Sarah Leamon of Leamon Roudette Law Group.

Leamon’s client admitted to the officer he is a medical marijuana user but is adamant he wasn’t impaired at the time or had marijuana on him.

“The officer used field sobriety testing techniques and my client has spinal arthritis, so his mobility is not great. As a result of his medical condition, my client does tell me he does have issues doing things like balancing on one leg,” Leamon said.

But when it comes to people using pot for medicinal purposes, Leamon adds some are naturally bound to fail the test.

“It does open the door for an abusive process for officers who are targeting people who they know are medical cannabis users…now these infractions remain on driving records and it’s used by ICBC to determine insurance rates,” Leamon said.

Her client is disputing the case but it could take a while before it’s resolved.

“When it comes to the $230 fine, it may take at least a year for that to proceed to trial, and when it comes to the 24-hour driving ban and the judicial review in BC Supreme Court, well, that can take a very long time.”

Meanwhile, Kyla Lee with Acumen Law says she has had people come forward with 24-hour prohibition cases. She suspects some might not want to fight tickets for offences like operating a vehicle with pot, which in her view is foolish because of the consequences of having that record in the system.

In Oak Bay, police there say their department issued its first ticket to a minor on Sunday for operating a vehicle with pot inside.

A reminder, you cannot possess pot while in a vehicle. There are two main exceptions: As long as it’s not in reach or accessible to the driver or passengers, or if the cannabis was obtained from a licensed producer and in its original, unopened packaging.

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